Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Farewell to 2018

2018 was a year of experimentation and growth and it brought me many new opportunities.

Some of the things I did were a lot of fun and new and interesting.  In the spring, I enjoyed presenting songs on nature and environmental themes to children at Wildrock in Crozet, Virginia.

Over the summer, I rented a saxophone and tried my hand at playing a new instrument.  My ultimate goal was to learn an instrument to play in a band. I learned that there was a beginning band (wind and percussion ensemble) at the local senior center. I went one day in July to watch their rehearsal. I found out I knew one of the percussion players and she invited me to join their team. It turns out, I used to play percussion in high school band, so it would be a good fit for me. I came home knowing that would be a better choice for me since my saxophone studies were going so slowly, it would take months to be good enough to play in a band. I joined the band's percussion team in September and I played my first concert with them in December (see previous post about this).

In August, I was selected to be a panelist at the Music & Cochlear Implants Symposium in Montreal.   As one of the panelists, I met with some of the leading researchers and developers of cochlear implants to help ensure the continuing improvement of musical satisfaction and proficiency for CI recipients. It was a great experience and one I will never forget!

I closed out the year working in the county schools teaching songwriting to two classrooms of 5th graders.

Of course, December was filled with holiday concerts and sing alongs with many groups.

I am full of optimism for this new year of 2019 and I wish you all a very good year!

Thanks as always for stopping by!

The picture above is from my travels up north for the holidays when I went up to the Ashokan Reservoir. It was beautiful!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The First Noel the Angels Did say

The Christmas season is upon us and I have been enjoying playing holiday music for various audiences. This year, I entered my arrangement of The First Noel for solo fingerstyle guitar in a holiday music arrangement contest with Sheet Music Plus.    While it would be fun to win a prize for most sales, I am mostly motivated with the idea of others enjoying playing this arrangement. It begins with an improvised introduction, the 1st verse the melody is played as is and 2nd verse is improvised. It is a lot of fun and easy to play! You can hear it and download it at this link:

In other holiday music news, this fall I joined the First Wind Band at the local senior center in Charlottesville. I have really been enjoying playing percussion again because that was where I started in my high school band. I was always best at the snare drum and here is a video from our holiday concert last weekend. The song is called, "Latin Yuletide" and I am on the snare drum and I even have a little solo towards the end!

I hope you enjoy and thank you for stopping by. Happy Holidays to all!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The plot of Life's Stories

This week I really enjoyed my work as Artist-in-Residence in Albemarle County schools working with three 5th grade classrooms.  The students were working on writing stories and learning all about plot, rising and falling action, climax, character studies. 

In my song, "Choose the Sky" we analyzed the plot for various elements. 

We talked about a plot where a problem is resolved.   When I asked the children, "What is the problem in this song?"

The problem is talked about in these lyrics:

"Sometimes I get lost inside a thought
nowhere to go
A story that, only I know
I need to get some perspective." 

A: "She just needed some space. "  "She needed to chill out." 

When I asked them, "What is the climax? Where the problem is most stated?

A: "Nowhere to go." 

Then we worked on the resolution of this problem. Students had no trouble finding it with my lyrics:

"When walking out into the day
choose the sky, choose the sky
the sun will renew, let it in you."

It was a lot of fun to work with these young writers afterwards and help them develop their own stories and poems. 

Choose the Sky! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

My Thanksgiving Foods :)

I want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. I have been enjoying celebrating this holiday with my music groups.  I have created a "Sound of Music" themed Thanksgiving set of songs and we enjoy singing them. Here is our favorite song and feel free to sing at your table!

My Thanksgiving Foods (to the tune of, "My Favorite Things":

Turkey and dressing
And yams and potatoes
Gravy and biscuits and fresh stewed tomatoes
Crimson red cranberries sure beat the blues
These are a few of my Thanksgiving foods

Creamed spinach soufflé and bacon with green beans
Broccoli, steamed carrots and let’s have more protein
Virginia ham for the rest of the brood
These are a few of my Thanksgiving foods

Corn in cheese sauces with paprika spices
Casseroles brimming with wild brown rices
Silvery champagne could bring some new moods
These are a few of my Thanksgiving foods

When the pie burns
When the cake flops
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my Thanksgiving foods 
And then I don't feel so bad

Monday, November 5, 2018

Lord, I'm 500 miles away from home

Today at the hospital I was just about to go play for a patient in ICU. A nurse warned me, “He might say something mean to you.” ( He was agitated)

When I came into view, the man started waving eagerly for me to come in.
Seeing my guitar in hand, he asked, “Will you play me a song?” I nodded. He asked me to play an old folk song, “500 Miles.”

“If you miss the train I’m on
You will know that I am gone
Lord I’m 500 miles away from home...”

I was touched that he wanted that sad song. He just sang that same verse over and over .
I don’t often get requests for certain songs but when I do, they are all about being home.
I was glad the song brought him comfort.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Full circle returning to rhythm

This summer was an interesting one when I rented an alto saxophone and studied it for three months. I got inspired to try a new band instrument after seeing a band from the local senior center play. There were about 12 saxophones and I thought it would be fun to try it.  Well, it was interesting but it did not "take" for me. Seemed that once I got to a certain level, a new and bigger challenge would emerge.  For instance, when I worked on learning to play, "Over the Rainbow," I found it hard because the melody flows slowly and without a break. For a wind player, that means having to have a lot of breath control to play a long flowing series of notes without stopping to take a breath.

I loved the novelty that opened opportunities for musical growth for me. However, I came to see that practicing alone in my living room was not what I had in mind. I realized it would take me months to be good enough to join an ensemble. So this led me back to where I started 45 years ago playing percussion in high school band! Somehow I didn't think I'd end up here but here I am.

I have joined a beginners wind band ensemble at our senior center in town and last week was our first rehearsal. I loved the challenge of it and it was a lot of fun to me. I knew I'd make mistakes and the conductor had a lot to say regarding my tendency to rush the tempo or to tense up. "Relax, slow down. " Sound familiar? It's not that I feel I have trouble slowing down but it's true when in a new experience, I do tend to get a little tense. I am enjoying practicing slowing down and relaxing back into being a drummer again. It is something I never forgot and holding those sticks in my hand and playing with the recordings on YouTube.  It's going to be fun. We're practicing for our concert in December.

I once said to myself, "The secret to being a master is the willingness to be a beginner over and over again. " I find that is true. I love to read music and to be challenged.

What's on your music stand these days?

Friday, July 13, 2018

The gift of music

The last time here, I told you about my meeting a new friend at a nursing home who gave me a pretty shirt? I visited her yesterday and she again opened her closet and insisted I take this shirt pictured here. I brought her three old songbooks I was not using and figured it made a good trade.

 She was delighted with the songbooks and went up and down the hall showing all of her friends. There was a Lennon & McCartney Collection and 2 Greatest Hits of the 60s and 70s. I was not surprised when we took them to the piano and she was able to play many of the songs on the fly. They were not easy songs! We had fun playing and singing together for the other residents. I wonder what our next visit will bring?